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Heard on the Hill: Cohen Treats President to Old-School Barbecue

Members of Congress love to argue about whose home state has the best food. But Rep. Steve Cohen may have figured out how to prove his case once and for all.

The Tennessee Democrat treated President Barack Obama and everyone on Air Force One to Memphis-style ribs this week.

Cohen had accompanied Obama and Tennessee GOP Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander to Memphis for the Booker T. Washington High School commencement address Monday. On the way out of town, the Congressman sprang for the nosh.

“I’ve been talking to the president for two-plus years about coming to Memphis and trying our barbecue,” Cohen tells HOH. “Because Memphis prides itself on its barbecue.”

Cohen ordered the slabs of ribs, heaping servings of beans and crunchy slaw from two well-known Memphis institutions, Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs and Interstate Barbecue.

John Vergos, Cohen’s longtime friend and law school classmate, owns Rendezvous, a 63-year-old Memphis barbecue institution.

He says their barbecue ribs have been popular with visiting presidents and dignitaries for ages, including President George W. Bush and then-Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Vergos didn’t get to deliver the food to the president directly, but he has been aboard Air Force One before.

At that time the restaurateur made the most of his trip by lifting a pack of matches and a box of M&Ms, which he later gave to Cohen.